Understanding a collaboration BETWEEN RELIGIONS

Understanding a collaboration BETWEEN RELIGIONS

Amma remembers a story. Once, a renowned artist painted a picture of an enchanting young woman. Whoever saw the painting fell in love with her.

Some of them asked the painter if the woman was his be-loved. When he said no, each one of them adamantly insisted on marrying her and wouldn't allow anyone else to do so. They demanded, "We want to know where to find this beautiful lady." The painter told them, ''I'm sorry, but actually, I've never seen her. She has no nationality, religion or language. What you see in her is not the beauty of an individual, either. I simply gave eyes, a nose and a form to the beauty I beheld within me." But none of them believed the painter's words. They angrily accused him, saying, "You are lying to us. You just want to make her your own!" The painter calmly told them, "No, please don't take this painting at surface level. Even if you search all over the world, you won't find her-yet she is the quintessence of all beauty."

Nonetheless, ignoring the words of the painter, the people became infatuated with the paint and the painting. In their intense desire to possess the young woman, they quarrelled and fought with each other and finally perished. We, too, are like this. Today, we are searching for a God who dwells only in pictures and scriptures. ln that search, we have lost our 'Nay. The scriptures say that each of us sees the world through tinted glasses. We see in the world that which we project. If we look with eyes of hatred and vengeance, the world will appear exactly that way to us. But if we look with eyes of love and compassion, we will see nothing but God's beauty everywhere. Amma has heard of an experiment conducted to ascertain whether or not this world really is as we perceive it. The researchers gave a young man a pair of glasses that distorted his vision. They then instructed him to wear the glasses continuously for seven days. For the first three days, he was very restless, as his perception of everything was quite disturbing. But after that, his eyes became fully adjusted to the glasses, and the pain and discomfort completely disappeared. What had at first made the world seem strange and distorted, later seemed normal to him. In the same way, each of us is wearing a different type of glasses. It is through these glasses that we view the world and religion. We react accordingly. Because of this, we are often unable to even see people as human beings. Amma remembers an experience a religious leader shared with her many years ago. He went to attend a function at a hospital in Hyderabad, India. As he got out of the car and was walking towards the hospital, he saw that many women were lined up on both sides of his path to receive him in the traditional style-holding oil lamps and raw rice. As he walked into their midst, they soaked the rice in the oil and flung it in his face. He told Amma, "Far from being a warm welcome, it was rather one of' anger and opposition. I gestured to them to stop, covering my face with my hands, but they continued anyway." Later, he inquired whether the people lined up to receive him believed in God. The owner of the hospital told him that they were believers and were his staff He replied, "I don't think so, because I could feel anger and vindictiveness in their behaviour." Suspecting something, the owner sent someone to investigate the incident. This is what he saw: the people who had welcomed the religious leader were assembled in a room, laughing. With contempt in her voice, one of them loudly boasted, "I really gave it to that devil!" Actually, the staff belonged to a different religion. Since their boss had told them to do so, they had no choice but to receive the guest. But they did not have any understanding of true religion or spiritual culture. In fact, their mind-set was one wherein people of different faiths were actually not humans, but devils. There are two types of ego. One is the ego of power and money. But the second type is more destructive. That is the ego that feels, "Jvly religion and viewpoint alone are correct. All others are wrong and unnecessary. l won't tolerate anything else." This is like saying, "My mother is good; yours is a prostitute!" This kind of thinking and conduct are the cause of all religious friction. Unless we eradicate these two types of ego, it will be difficult to bring about peace in the world. The willingness to listen to others, the ability to understand them and the broad-mindedness to accept even those .who disagree with us - these are the signs of true spiritual culture. Unfortunately, these qualities are exactly what are missing from the world today. Nevertheless, when natural calamities occur, people's hearts open up, transcending thoughts of caste, religion and politics. When the tsunami struck South Asia, all barriers of religion and nationality disappeared. All hearts ached in compassion For the victims. All eyes shed tears along with them. And all hands reached out to dry those tears and to help the people. Countless are the occasions when my heart and soul have been filled, seeing atheists and people belonging to different political parties and religions working day and night alongside residents of our ashram [monastery] in a spirit of self-sacrifice. Yet, the non-judgemental attitude and compassion people express during such situations come and go as quickly as a flash of lightning. Instead, we can manage to keep that flame of compassion ablaze within, it can dispel the darkness surrounding us. In this way, may the trickle oF compassion within us grow into a torrential flow. Let us transform that spark of love into an effulgence, blazing like the sun. This will create a heaven on earth. The capacity to do this dwells within all of us; it is our birthright and true nature.

Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi